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£30bn lift for US civil engineering sector

THE US CIVIL engineering sector is booming, the latest economic forecast for the world's largest construction market claimed this week.

FMI's Construction Update predicts a 7.3% increase in civil engineering output this year, followed by a 6.9% rise in 2000.

In stark contrast to the UK, the strongest infrastructure sector in the US is highways, which is predicted to grow by 13.9% in 1999 and 12% next year.

The engine driving this multi billion dollar boom is the TEA-21 legislation, the largest transportation bill ever passed in US law. The act authorises annual expenditure of £30bn for the next six years on highway construction and, in particular, repair. Five years ago, road spending was averaging £23bn.

As with the UK, the US road network suffers from considerable neglect, with nearly 60% of major roads needing significant repair work and 31% of bridges structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

TEA-21 will result in the repair of more than 30,000 lane-kms of highway and the construction of nearly 5,000 lane-kms of additional capacity. New roads totalling 1,200 km will also be constructed by 2003.

Texas leads the way, increasing its road spend by 61% to an annual £1.2bn - as much as is spent on highway construction and repair in the whole of the UK.

Other states dramatically stepping up highway work include: Florida (up 57% to an annual £750M), Pennsylvania (up 47% to £800M), California (46%, £1.5bn) and New York (35%, £850M).

Alastair McLellan

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